MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the first official day on the job for Eric Kaler, the 16th President of the University of Minnesota. He informally assumed the reins and responsibility for the U’s $3.7 billion budget last Friday, the same day the state government shutdown went into effect.
Kaler told WCCO’s Dave Lee the university has some cash reserves that will enable the school to keep running into the foreseeable future.
“We’ll have to take a look in the middle of August or so, if we’re unfortunate enough to have the shutdown go that long. But we’re open for business and we’ll be planning to welcome students in the fall.”
Kaler listed two priorities for his job.
“We’re going to continue to grow the excellence of the University of Minnesota; the second thing is we’re going to maintain access to the people of Minnesota. This is a very important part of the state of Minnesota,” he explained. “My goal is to have it be available to every qualified Minnesota student.”
WCCO’s Dave Lee Interviews Eric Kaler
Despite his busy schedule and newfound status, Kaler said he will still make time for students.
“I am going to be in contact with both our undergraduate and graduate students. It’s very important to me. It gives me energy and excitement.”
As far as changes that have been made at the U since he was a student, he said two things are really clear.
“The physical plant is much more handsome than it was in 1980. Some beautiful new buildings and some lovingly restored buildings which make the campus a much more pleasant place to be,” he said. “Inside those buildings we really have a much greater focus on the undergraduate experience than we did 30 years ago.”
Kaler takes over as the U’s Law School and Carlson School of Management talk about switching to private-funding only, which would give the schools more control over how they operate. Kaler said he supports the funding switch as long as it doesn’t inhibit access to education for all the students at the schools.
“Other universities are moving that way. State support is now 18 percent of our budget at the University of Minnesota. It’s much less than that at our peer institutions, so schools do have to look at moving to that private model. I’m certainly open to that discussion,” he said.